Remote Desktop is probably one of the most used feature in the IT industry to manage servers and provide technical support to the end-users. From one physical location, Remote Desktop allows an administrator to take control of any workstations or servers anywhere, as long as the equipment is online. There are a lot of options available, the most popular are, MS Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), VNC, Teamviewer, Join.me, GotoMyPC and LogMeIn. Although, LMI was a good option until they discontinued their free version.
Part of the Google ecosystem, Chrome Remote Desktop is worth a look for its simplicity to setup and it is widely supported. Although not all Operating Systems and devices can host the CRD service, anything that runs Chrome should be able to connect to another computer hosting the CRD service.
Prerequisite & Limitations
You will need a Goggle account.
- Chrome Remote Desktop service, as a host, is not supported on, Mac OS X 10.5, Chrome OS (meaning Chromebooks), Linux and Windows OS below XP.
- Remote access is available to any devices that runs Chrome.
- From the Host Computer, log into Google and install the “Chrome Remote Desktop” application from the Chrome Web Store.
- Configure and set up a PIN for authentication
- From the Remote Computer, install “Chrome Remote Desktop”.
- Connect to the Host Computer
Chrome Remote Desktop installation
Log into your Google account, head over to the “Chrome Web Store” search for “Chrome Remote Desktop” (#1) and click on “+ Free” (#2) to install the application.
Review the permissions and “Add” the application.
From the “Chrome App Launcher”, find the newly application and start it.
In the next two screenshots, confirm the access permissions to the host computer.
Chrome Remote Desktop can be used in two ways.
(#2) Remote Assistance, attended mode. Attended mode means, you will need to get a third party involved to remote into a computer, like to provide you with a unique and “use only once” session ID to complete the screen sharing.
(#1) You remote into a workstation linked to your Google account, by contrast to the “Remote Assistance”, it is called unattended mode.
I will review the unattended mode first (#1).
Accessing your own computer
Under “My Computers” > “Get Started”.
The “Chrome Remote Desktop” feature must be enabled. Click on “Enable Remote Connections”.
The next step is to create an access code or PIN to authenticate to the host computer from a remote workstation. The PIN requires at least six digits, however the longer the more secure. I tested the PIN length and it appeared that the input form accepts up to 30 digits.
Acknowledge that the Chrome Remote Desktop has been enabled. There is a warning about making sure that the power settings are not enabled in which case, the network interface could go into sleep mode.
If successful, your computer hostname will show up. At this point, the hostname “Win7wn” is ready to accept incoming connections. Access will be granted upon authentication based on the PIN.
Remote Assistance Mode
The Remote Assistance mode allows one party to share its screen to another party. This is the ideal feature to perform screen sharing with another remote user for educational purposes, collaboration or technical assistance. Which is much easier than one person trying to describe the issue to someone else.
The person who wants to share its screen will initiate the process by click “Share”, a code, or session ID will be generated (#1). The code is valid for ONE and only ONE session. Once the remote session is terminated, by either party, the code is unusable. If there is a need to resume the sharing session, then a new code must be re-issued to the other party.
Connect to a host from a remote client.
Log into your Google account from a remote computer, Google will automatically download the application. Proceed with the installation.
For this tutorial, I am using my MacBook Air as the remote client.
Once the application has been installed, start the Chrome Remote Desktop.
Click on the Computer name you are going to remote into.
Wait for the connection to initialize.
Enter the PIN (#1) and Click “Connect” (#2). As always, I recommend against any “remember my credentials” feature (#3).
I have now established a Chrome Desktop Remote connection to my Windows 7 from my MBA.
There are a few options to manage your Chrome Remote Desktop session (#1)
To accommodate different screen resolution, click on “Screen Options” to adjust the display.
“Send keys”, not much options here beside “CTRL + ALT + DEL” and “PRINT SC”.
To terminate the remote session, just click on “Disconnect”.
To terminate the session from the host session, click on “Stop Sharing” at the bottom of the screen (#2). Note, the tab can be moved out of the way if needed.
I noticed a little issue with the Mac. After entering, my PIN, the session kept spinning and never connects.
I quickly found out that the plug-in was blocked. Once I enabled it (#2 then #3), it connected.
Keep in mind that if you are using a firewall, port 443 (SSL) and 5222 need to be opened.
For more troubleshooting tips, check out Support.Google.com site.
Security & Privacy
Chrome Remote Desktop sessions are fully encrypted via AES over a secure SSL connection.
For your safety and security, all remote desktop sessions are fully encrypted using Chrome’s SSL features, which includes full support for AES.
“While your connection setup is mediated by Google’s servers, your actual remote desktop session data are sent directly from the client to the host, except in limited circumstances where they may pass through Google relays. Google can’t let anyone but you access your computer though because of the PIN or Access Code you use when you share it (which client and host verify without ever disclosing it to anyone, even Google). The PIN/Access Code and SSL encryption combination also ensures that when you do connect to your host, whether peer-to-peer or relayed, no one can see your data, not even Google.
None of your session data are ever recorded, and no session data is transmitted in a way that would let Google or anyone else (besides the participants) access it.
We do collect and store data about any network delays and how long your session lasted. This information is completely anonymous. We use it to learn how to improve Chrome Remote Desktop in the future.”
The weakest link is the Google account. Once the Google account has been compromised, all your workstations running Chrome Remote Desktop are comprised since the PIN can be changed. You may want to consider adding Google 2-Steps verification.
Chrome Desktop Remote is mostly a good option for screen sharing where there is a need for the host and the remote user to interact. It is a fairly simple to implement. There is no need to mess with “Port Forwarding” for instance. Also, the client piece is widely available, if a device can run Chrome, changes are you could use it to remote into your home computer. There is an Android version of Chrome Remote Desktop. It does work, but trust me, you do not want to rely on it too much. The functionality is there, but it is reserved for desperate situation only.
On the host computer, it runs as a service, therefore there is no need to actually log into the computer. Over the LAN, the latency is satisfactory, although the MS remote desktop protocol is a bit smoother and more responsive. Things get hairy when you remote into a host with more than one display. All the active displays are crammed into the remote client display. This is the same behavior when working with all the VNC alike remote tools. TeamViewer deals with the issue by assigning a tab per display.
If you own a chromebook, this is an extension you would definitely consider.